Horseman Thief Pouter Pigeon

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Jim Gifford

Is the Horseman Thief Pouter Pigeon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Horseman Pouter

Scientific name: Columba livia domestica

The basics:
The Horseman Thief Pouter Pigeon is one of the most specialized varieties out there. Like all pouters, this bird is quite vain and features a large, inflatable crop that can be used to catch the eye of its admirers. However, the Horseman Thief is a so-called dual purpose bird that can show well on the bench but which also has a job to perform. A free-flying bird must be able to entice members of the opposite sex from another breeder's loft back to the successful thief's home loft. To learn more about participating in such competitions, you should network with your country's club, such as Horseman Pouter Club of North America.

The word “horseman” is said to be a Scottish term for highwayman, itself an old-fashioned term for the armed robbers of days gone by when both travelers and robbers went by horseback. There are a couple of different theories about the development of the Horseman Thief Pouter Pigeon, but the bird was imported from Spain into Scotland or developed in Scotland around the 17th or 18th century. Some of the early versions of the bird were pretty devious, since the “thief” bird would attract other breeder's birds back to the cote, where they would either be held for ransom or eaten as food.

A fine pouter pigeon with an inflatable crop.

400 grams (14 oz.)

Average size:
25 - 30 centimeters (10 - 10.5 in.)

7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
The alert, intelligent Horseman Thief Pouter Pigeon is proud of its ability to win and attract a mate, and breeders have reported that their birds can be precocious parents who try to go to nest younger than many other pigeon varieties.

A proper loft for breeding and training Horseman Thief Pouter Pigeons is a specialized structure that must be carefully designed for easy cleaning and good air circulation without being drafty. Work with a more advanced hobbyist or breeder so that you can plan the best possible loft for your goals. It is often recommended that pigeons have a minimum of four feet square per pair, which means that a loft containing 12 birds should be at least four feet by six. Thieves have been a huge problem in some areas, so make sure that you have a secure loft, including alarms and probably a web-cam to monitor and record anyone going in or out.

If you have a retired, rehomed, or otherwise single pet Horseman Thief Pouter Pigeon that you are keeping as a personal pet, then you have a different situation. Provide the longest flight possible, to allow the bird to exercise even when you can't be there. Bird-proof any room where you allow the bird to come out and fly free (no ceiling fans, please!), and lock all doors and windows while the bird is out and about indoors. Pigeons can't be toilet-trained, but it's even possible to buy pigeon diapers if need be to keep the poop under control.

Pigeons do bathe in water, so they should be allowed access to a shallow dog dish or similar bathing bowl to splash around in. Since pigeons lower the head to drink, they will need a deeper bowl for the drinking water.

As an older breed, the true Horseman's Thief Pouter Pigeon can thrive on a relatively simple diet. Most people start with a high-quality pigeon mix from a well-regarded source. You may also mix in quality grains such as millet, barley, wheat, whole corn, dry peas, buckwheat, oats, and so on, either from a good feed store with fast turn-over or from a health food store. Special pellets formulated for pigeons can be used to supplement the diet, to ensure that your bird has enough vitamins and protein. Chopped greens like kale, dandelion greens, spinach, or fresh sprouts should be offered each day. Some people offer high beta carotene foods like finely chopped carrot or papaya.

Pigeons need access to a high quality pigeon grit to help them digest the tough, uncooked grains they like to eat. A cuttlebone or another calcium source is also valuable. However, calcium may not be properly absorbed without sufficient vitamin D3 if your pigeon is an indoor pet. Therefore, it is important to choose a good avian supplement that includes D3.

Written by Elaine Radford

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